The challenge of armchair auditing

In August 2010 the then Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, announced that he wanted to empower “an army of armchair auditors” to scrutinise the work of his department.  This move would signal the beginning of a “new era” of government transparency and accountability with any outgoings of £500 or more being publicly revealed online. The wider world was subsequently going to have access the nuts and bolts of how in excess of £300m (the departmental budget in 2010) was being spent.

And this was clearly only meant to be the start of things.  David Cameron’s Conservative/Liberal Democratic government embraced this new world of openness and accountability, opening up information on a whole range of things from crime statistics to spending commitments and from contract awarding to hospital waiting lists.  This new openness would not only help to clamp down on waste, but it would also drive both efficiency and responsiveness (see here).

Furthermore, the government promised to develop a system of performance management based around a range of performance indicators.  The 200 plus indicators would be an ideal tool for the public to hold those with entrusted power to account.   This was, or so it seemed, bordering on the revolutionary.  Engaged citizens would be able to unpack and dissect the minutiae of government performance and the age of Sir Humphreys pulling the strings facelessly from behind a cloak of anonymity would be behind us.

How, then, has this veritable army of auditors faired?  And how has government and the process of governing changed as a result?  The answer to the first question gives a very strong steer as to the answer to the second; impressive though the brave new world sounds, the army has not so much organised a mutiny as never really enrolled in the first place.  There are one or two notable, and quite specific, exceptions (see here and here), but as Ben Worthy and Robyn Munro have argued, there are plenty of good reasons why one can’t really blame prospective armchair auditors for falling at the first hurdle.

A recent report by the Institute for Government (IoG) outlines three specific reasons why this drive to increase people power has at best moved forward only patchily.  The IoG boils it down to poor quality data, poor communication (understood as inadequate explanations of what the data means) and very little evidence that there was any great public willingness to use the system in the first place.

Whilst the third of these is something that should probably not surprise us too much – minus the pay of a fully trained auditor it can’t be that big a surprise that people aren’t queuing up to be amateur forensic accountants – the existence of the other two problem areas are disappointments.

The IoG, to be fair, was quick to recognise that some government departments (and service providers more broadly) did do their best to be open with both data and explanations of it, but some appeared to take their obligations anything but seriously.  Data was often simply not available, or when it was available it was in a format that was unsearchable or very hard to actually use in any straightforward sense.  A pile of .pdf documents the size (if printed out) of a hefty doorstop might well fulfill transparency obligations, but it is hard to claim that all but the unhealthily obsessed can do anything with these things.

Over the course of the last few months a number of websites and apps have been developed to help make data-sifting easier.  And, more specifically, to enable the interested external observer to uncover potential malpractice.  If you’re interested in public procurement data, for example, then is a useful starting point, while claims to ‘track and analyse public financial information globally’.  In November 2015 the University of Sussex and Transparency International UK took a closer look at what these websites and apps might offer, convening a focus group to try and unpack their usefulness.  15 students on the MA in Corruption and Governance plus 3 PhD students on the SCSC’s PhD programme sat down to see what they could make of them.  The students looked to try and uncover potentially interesting transactions or processes in a number of the UK’s local authorities.  They used the websites to help them, as well as conventional search engines such as google.  The aim was to see if an interested observer could find anything of note.

The outcome was predictable; the students found little of genuine substance.  On the one hand, the data remains both patchy and largely impenetrable.  The numbers mean little to those who don’t understand the context, and there is effectively nothing out there explaining why decisions were made, specific contracts awarded and government took the form that it did.  On the other hand, unless an armchair auditor possesses the talents of Lieutenant Colombo, the patience of a saint and, perhaps most importantly, some sort of tip or piece of inside information to help them head in the right direction, then he or she won’t be able to make much progress at all.  As one of the MA students, Koya Rahman, noted “I spent 90 minutes looking hard at all of this, but, in truth, if I’d been at home and not part of this experiment I’d have given up after 10 minutes”.  Who can blame her?

Perhaps it is nonetheless too soon to be so downbeat about people power in this area.  The rise of the open data agenda and the existence of a number of initiatives to both broaden its scope and streamline the processes that underpin it mean that things may look very different in the near(ish) future.  David Cameron, to be fair, does seem to have embraced the agenda rather more than many of his international contemporaries.  But, the devil really is in the detail, and unless both the IT infrastructure of the public sector can be improved and the accessibility of the data is enhanced then armchair auditing will remain the privilege of the (very) few.

Dan Hough









The challenge of dealing with military corruption in Nigeria

Colonel Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria, is waiting to go on trial for corruption in the richest, most populated and many think the most corrupt country in Africa. This story (see here for more) is not in the same league as the case of Sani Abacha, a former corrupt General and President of Nigeria who stole billions, but it is still serious.

Dasuki was high on the new(ish) Nigerian president, General Mohammadu Buhari’s, hit list, and one of the first people to be charged with corruption when he took office in April. Buhari made it clear to the world that security and corruption were his first two national policy priorities and he wanted to be seen to act on both early on. That led to Dasuki quickly being put under house arrest.

Dasuki had played a prominent role in helping to destroy public faith in Nigeria’s once internationally respected army and it is to be hoped that the trial will shed more light on exactly how he did this. Buhari certainly thinks that Dasuki knows much more about large-scale corruption in the military and the theft of money than he will admit. This is money that was meant to help ordinary soldiers fight terrorists in the North-East of Nigeria, on the borders with Chad and Cameroon.

For his part, Dasuki had been the senior military officer responsible for advising President Goodluck Jonathan about national security and spending on the armed forces.  It appears that he had advised him of the need for a massively increased budget for the army in 2014 – all well and good, but, again, where precisely did all that money go? There is very little evidence that it was spent on new equipment, much needed weapons or vehicles (see here).

Dasuki’s job had also been to explain what the military were doing to fight terrorism, and, as became increasingly clear, to push any blame for failure on the part of the government on to others such as the main opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC).  The APC are dominant in the northern states of Nigeria where Boko Haram are most active and so are very much in the middle of Nigeria’s gruesome battle with a hard to pin down terrorist group. The then government’s (and Dasuki’s) argument was that the military could not defeat Boko Haram while APC Governors in the northern states supported Boko Haram and undermined President Goodluck Jonathan. This was a serious accusation that was understandably not taken lying down by the APC whose reputation was on the line in the run up to a national election in March 2015.

It also looked as if Dasuki may have gained traction in the UK with his defence of the Nigerian military’s obvious failure in the north, and his thinly veiled accusation against the APC. In the UK Parliament, for example, Andrew Rosindell MP asked the then UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, how the UK was engaging with Nigeria’s leading opposition party (the APC).  This followed a debate in parliament in which Labour MP Sandra Osborne sought to examine allegations of links between the APC and Boko Haram (see here).

Was the APC part of a conspiracy funded by the northern states? Lai Mohammed, APC Press Secretary (and now Minister of Information), came to London at very short notice in September 2014 to argue the opposite case in the UK Parliament (see here for his reply to Dasuki). Dasuki’s pamphlets, meanwhile, describing how Boko Haram had increased its’ operations, were distributed by Nigerian Consulate officials in Portcullis House during Lai Mohammed’s speech.  Quite where this will all end is not clear, but it is a story that is worth following.  The trial is ongoing in Nigeria and this episode will tell us more about how the new president intends to deal with serious corruption allegations in the military.

Martin Brown

MA Student

Sussex Centre for the Study of Corruption (SCSC)


Rotting from the head down: Institutionalised corruption in Lesotho

Just before the Lesotho parliament was dissolved ahead of the general election in February 2015, the then (and still) Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) provoked a social media storm by suggesting, in parliament, that government would have to pay off the interest free loans that legislators had taken as part of their benefits. This, he was quoted as saying, would ensure the MPs who fail to retain their seats do not default on their payments. It would also act as an added incentive for legislators to agree to the dissolution of the then 2 year old 8th parliament.

At face value, this seemed to defy all political logic coming from a man cast as venal and greedy in both mainstream and social media circles. One would have thought the scandals in which he was embroiled would make him a fraction careful with what he says as he tries to endear himself to the public and hopefully do well in the election. But again, the whole thing seemed to fit the narrative that the DPM was playing a political trick of sorts, and trying to make friends on both sides of the political aisle as he projects himself as being concerned about the welfare of legislators regardless of their political affiliation.

Be that as it may, the political punditry was that the socio-economic and political dynamics that currently exists in Lesotho would not allow any government to ‘spit on tax payers’ by making such hefty payments on behalf of financially reckless individuals. There would be little to no room for political negligence, arrogance and gluttony of the sort that characterised previous regimes. Fast forward 8 months, the pundits are left with an egg on their faces; all but 2 of the 120 legislators who took out loans of M500, 000 (34750 USD) each, have now had these debts fully settled by the government of Lesotho.

Morally reprehensible

The fact that the government has forked out M32 million on behalf of these individuals is a clear indication of the level of rot that has for so long hindered this country’s progress. We are aware of the notion that this may not qualify as ‘corruption’ because government fulfilled its legal obligation as the guarantor, to pay off the loans in the event that MPs were defaulting or likely to default. But so far the evidence that MPs are in fact failing to service their debts has not been presented. For all we know, many of these guys are back in parliament while some are currently gainfully employed elsewhere. Even if these were not the case, it is morally objectionable for the country that consumes so huge a chunk of donor funding, is failing to reign on the spread of HIV/AIDS, violent crime, the bourgeoning graduate unemployment, crumbling basic education and healthcare systems and has its public infrastructure reeling in the shocking state of disrepair, to spend over 2 million USD writing off the debts of individual legislators.

It should be borne in mind that access to the interest-free loans does not reflect the generosity of the banks, but that of the Lesotho government towards the people who are, by national standards, already earning much higher than the majority of the tax-payers. These are the people who on top of their salaries have each a daily lunch allowance of 250 Maloti (18 USD). To put it in perspective, each MPs weekly allowance for lunch is equivalent to an average monthly salary of Lesotho’s textile factory worker.

What makes this even more morally apprehensible is that the “honourable” members who have failed to do the honourable thing of paying their debts are now said to be “entitled” to more interest-free loans. In other words, a bad debt is written off and rewarded with access to more debt, again with government as the guarantor. This is happening in the context in which 50% of the population lives below the poverty line, and where the government is said to be unable to sponsor all students admitted at various higher learning institutions, particularly the National University of Lesotho. These payments are being effected by the very government leaders who, as recently as April this year, complained about the fiscal irresponsibility of the previous administration, and as a result slashed the budget by approximately M3 billion with capital budget suffering the most.

Institutionalised corruption

Sadly, this is not the first time the legal framework is being used to justify the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. As recently as 2006/7, the Lesotho government invoked an obscure regulation to allow statutory employees to purchase its luxury cars for less than 5% of their current value; pricey Mercedes Benz cars were bought for as little as M4000 /280 USD (which is equivalent to what each MP earns as an allowance for lunch in 3 weeks). That caused a huge public furore in the urban areas and partly accounts for the modest performance in the 2007 snap election of the then recently formed All Basotho Convention (ABC).

Any law, policy or regulation that enables a government to do what the Lesotho government did in 2006 or inherit the private debts of individual legislators as it is currently doing, is intrinsically ‘corrupt’. Indeed as Dan Kaufmann argues, corruption includes “some acts that may be legal in a strict narrow sense, but where the rules of the game and the state laws, policies, regulations and institutions” have been shaped in ways that privilege private interests (of especially the ruling elite). In other words, corruption is not only confined to the output side of the political process, wherein officials violate laws, regulations and procedures for private gain. It encompasses the building and maintenance of a corruption-prone legal framework in order to promote and protect the interests of the political elites and their cronies. It is this type of corruption that cripples the entire political process and renders democracy meaningless for a majority of ordinary citizens.

The foregoing notwithstanding- and herein lies the conundrum- even if Lesotho’s laws explicitly prohibited these actions, there are grounds to suspect the government would have still gone ahead and executed its corrupt intentions. There are several incidences in which state officers blatantly ignored the laws when their private interests were at stake. Recent examples include refusals by the former Communications’ minister and the current commander of Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF) to vacate offices after they were legally removed. The LDF has defied several court orders in the past and recently failed to comply with the ruling to release the soldiers suspected of mutiny and hold them in open arrest. An audio clip that airs regularly in one of the local radio stations features the former Minister of Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs (and currently, minister of Defence) as stating that ‘It DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THE LAW SAYS; no one has the right to prorogue our parliament ”. These are the indicators of the level of systemic corruption that characterises the political economy of Lesotho. In this country, laws and regulations do not mean much (if anything) when they are seen to clash with the interests of the government of the day or powerful individuals within it.

This is the context within which political pundits ought to have interpreted the DPM’s bold contention that government ought to inherit the debts of individual legislators. Seen in light of systemic corruption, that behaviour was not irrational or ill-advised. The suggestion came from the place of assurance that in a country where corruption is not an aberration, but a system in its own right, he would not suffer major political consequences. It is the same assurance that underpins Prime Minister Mosisili’s decision to spend- without flinching- a whopping 15 million (1 million USD) buying Principal Secretaries out of their contracts because his cabinet is uncomfortable working with senior officers who were employed by the previous administration.

The fish rots from the head down

With an ever increasing access to media, more Basotho, especially the youth, are becoming aware of the extent to which public power is being used to advance private interests. This has severe consequences. Firstly, it is eroding institutional trust and the sense of patriotism especially amongst the youth, at an alarming rate. It is becoming more and more difficult to convince young people to love and serve their country; why should they love the country when the political leadership doesn’t care about it?

Secondly, this rampant political corruption is directly linked to poor service delivery, vandalism and misuse of public resources (cars, telephones etc) by public officers and the increased normalisation of petty corruption by street level bureaucrats. The sharp increases in retail bribes for drivers’ licences and number plates is indicative of the fact that most public officials, taking cues from elected leaders, are (mis)using their positions for illicit financial benefits. This can only end when political leaders get their act together and resolve to collectively stop this rot from spreading further and wrecking more havoc on Lesotho’s fragile economy and politics.

Moletsane Monyake

University of Sussex

The Politics of False Dawns at FIFA

In 2013, FIFA president Sepp Blatter triumphantly proclaimed the success of FIFA’s internal reform process. Presiding over the football governing body’s annual conference in Mauritius, Blatter claimed that FIFA had “weathered the storm” of recent corruption scandals and could move forward optimistically following the implementation of a reform package designed to promote good governance. Fast-forward two years, however, and it becomes apparent that FIFA remains embroiled in a storm that seems to be gaining in momentum each day as new allegations of corruption are brought forth and more transgressions are brought to light.

Events this year have shaken FIFA to its core. The indictment of fourteen FIFA and sports marketing officials on corruption charges by the U.S. Department of Justice in May (see here) was a sensational event that set the stage for further tumultuousness in the upper echelons of the organization. Indeed, Blatter (who plans to resign in February 2016) and UEFA president Michel Platini (previously the odds-on favorite to succeed Blatter) are currently suspended by FIFA after Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation against Blatter over an alleged “disloyal payment” to Platini in 2011. While investigators have not yet determined whether this particular act was in fact “corrupt,” the investigation nonetheless shows that FIFA is a problem-ridden organization suffering from a fundamental leadership crisis.

Today, Blatter’s optimistic comments of 2013 are a distant memory and appear to be an utter sham. But how did this come about? What happened to the highly-touted reform package that was supposedly ushering in a new era of good governance? In reality, a truly meaningful and sweeping reform process never actually occurred. Instead, the past few years have been characterized by a series of false dawns in which promising developments have petered out, preserving the status quo and seriously hindering anti-corruption efforts in FIFA.

False Dawn #1: The Independent Governance Committee

Following the controversy associated with the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes (see here for a timeline), FIFA charged Mark Pieth, a Swiss law professor and anti-corruption expert, with the task of heading an independent advisory body designed to formulate reform proposals. This Independent Governance Committee (IGC), established in 2011, represented a step in the right direction. Finally, it seemed, FIFA could begin to adopt much-needed institutional reforms promoting higher transparency and accountability. Blatter and other top FIFA officials effectively ensured that this would not happen

Despite their public enthusiasm for reform, FIFA executives never really took the IGC’s reform proposals seriously. Sure, important reforms were passed, chief among them integrity checks in executive elections and the introduction of independent chairpersons to oversee FIFA’s Ethics and Audit & Compliance committees. However, as the IGC noted in its final report in 2014, some of the most crucial reforms—term limits for the presidency and other executives, independent oversight of the executive committee, salary disclosures, etc.—remain unimplemented. Any organization truly committed to governance reform would have adopted these common-sense measures. Mark Pieth slammed Blatter for “cherry picking” the easiest reform measures and avoiding the tougher measures that would induce real change. Blatter dismissed this criticism, arguing that “[e]ven if Professor Pieth says we shall cherry pick, we cannot take the whole tree.” Such dismissiveness illustrates a deeply-entrenched resistance to change that continues to plague FIFA today.

False Dawn #2: The Garcia Report

In addition to ignoring crucial IGC reform proposals, internal actors have also undermined some reforms following their enactment. The end-result: “newly-reformed” institutions that appear promising but deliver little. The events surrounding the 2014 Garcia Report provide an excellent example of this issue.

Michael Garcia, an American lawyer, served as the independent chairman of the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee. Garcia oversaw an extensive two-year investigation into the allegedly corrupt bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. He presented his findings to FIFA in a 430-page report, which FIFA then released in summary form. Garcia complained that this 42-page summary was “materially incomplete and erroneous,” leading him to challenge the release of this summary in front of FIFA’s Appeals Committee. His criticisms fell on deaf ears, and he resigned soon after.

FIFA’s refusal to release the Garcia Report (or even an accurate summary of it) shows how FIFA has obstructed the very institutions that purportedly demonstrate its commitment to reform and transparency. On paper, the adoption of independent oversight on the Ethics Committee looked like a clear shift towards greater transparency and accountability. In practice, however, Garcia’s work was hamstrung by officials lacking a true commitment to transparency and reform. This case demonstrates that reformed institutions do not stand a chance of functioning properly without genuine buy-in from the individuals who work in and oversee these institutions.

False Dawn #3: Blatter’s Reelection and Resignation

Joint efforts by U.S. and Swiss authorities to crack down on misconduct within FIFA stirred up significant controversy ahead of the presidential election in May 2015. These high-profile legal sanctions showcased the pervasiveness of FIFA’s corruption problem as well as the inadequacy of its reform efforts (note: for an excellent paper that evaluates the effectiveness of legal and other accountability mechanisms in the FIFA case, see Pielke [2013]). These developments should have rendered Blatter’s presidency untenable, but they did not. Instead, when presented with the opportunity to take a stand for reform and change, the FIFA Congress voted for more of the same—Blatter won 133-73 over his nearest challenger. Blatter’s reelection in spite of all the wrongdoing that took place on his watch demonstrates the magnitude and systemic nature of FIFA’s governance dilemma.

A mere four days after winning reelection, widespread public backlash ultimately compelled Blatter to resign from the presidency as of February 2016. Unfortunately, this seemingly good news did not really change much. Blatter’s delayed resignation allowed him to cling on to his position and in so doing stymie any hope for meaningful reform. Given his recent suspension, though, Blatter may finally be forced out for good. Now, all eyes have turned to the special presidential election scheduled for next winter, which will play a decisive role in shaping FIFA’s future. 

The 2016 FIFA Presidential Election: False Dawn #4?

The three false dawns described above show that important institutional reforms are still lacking and, most importantly, that the troubles facing FIFA are cultural in nature. Indeed, FIFA officials’ decisions to ignore important IGC recommendations, to misleadingly censor and obstruct the Garcia Report, and to reelect Sepp Blatter in 2015 all boil down to an organizational culture that has normalized corruption and allowed it to flourish. This organizational culture must undergo fundamental change before essential reforms can hope to succeed. Next February’s presidential election could play a pivotal role in this process.

In order for FIFA to seriously commit to reform, a significant change in leadership is paramount. Certainly, external forces such as social condemnation and legal sanctions have played a necessary role in weeding out “bad apples” within FIFA’s leadership, but their impact is limited and insufficient in the long-run because these forces fail to address the underlying cultural elements that drive systemic corruption. A change in organizational culture must be internally-driven, and the key driver of this process must be the next FIFA president. This president should be a moral entrepreneur of sorts, who actively “walks the talk” of reform and legitimizes and prioritizes anti-corruption efforts inside the organization. While it is difficult to say whether any of the current presidential candidates can fulfill this role (an outsider may be a surer bet but might lack electability), one thing is certain: the extent to which the next president truly prioritizes reform and fosters internal cultural change will determine whether we look back on the 2016 election as a watershed moment in FIFA’s history or just another false dawn.

William Heaston

University of Sussex

Franz, please, say it ain’t so …

For a sports fan of a certain age, the summer of 2015 has had rather a depressing feel to it. Not so much on account of any particular events that have taken place out on the field of play, but more for what has been transpiring off it. Over the last few months some of the great sporting icons of our times have had their reputations at best slightly tarnished, and at worst potentially ruined by the stain of corruption that they either saw fit to overlook as administrators or, even worse, may well have indulged in themselves.

That sporting superstars appear to have been caught indulging in skulduggery is particularly depressing when one remembers the style, grace and class that they themselves oozed out on the sports field. Many a football fan will recall Michel Platini scoring nine goals (the second top scorer in the tournament managed only three) whilst leading France to the 1984 European Championship. The doyen of French football, the star of the 1984 side, is now suspended from his current position as president of UEFA, European football’s governing body, pending the outcome of allegations that FIFA president Sepp Blatter made a ‘disloyal payment’ of £1.6m to him. Regardless of the outcome, Platini’s chances of succeeding Blatter as FIFA president now appear to be slim.

Falls from riches to rags can also be told in the world’s second most popular sport, cricket. Chris Cairns, the swashbuckling former Wisden Cricketer of the Year (2000) and prodigious six-hitter, is currently standing trial in London accused of both fixing the results of matches and perjury. The days when he could lay claim to being the best all round cricketer on the planet seem but a distant memory. He’ll do well to avoid spending the foreseeable future in jail.

If the affairs of Platini and Cairns were not enough to force the greying sports fan in to a mild state of depression, things got even worse this week. Sebastian Coe, current head of track and field’s IAAF, former Rolls Royce middle distance runner and double Olympic gold medallist, found himself fending off accusations that he turned a blind eye to accusations of systemic corruption in his sport. The fact that he originally described the German TV documentary that unearthed the doping scandals as a “declaration of war” and then failed to immediately acknowledge the need to implement the recommendations of a report in to the programme’s claims bodes ill. Coe has only been in the job since August, but already he finds himself having to do a lot of soul-searching about how he and his organisation have dealt with these corruption allegations. Coe’s task now is nothing less than to save his sport’s soul.

But in many ways the most surprising, and the most disappointing, allegation of corruption – for this sports fan at least – stemmed from Germany. For the best part of 50 years German football has been epitomised by the performances, the style and the all-round panache of ‘Der Kaiser’, Franz Beckenbauer. Not only did he lead West Germany to a World Cup triumph on the field in 1974, he coached soon-to-be-unified Germany to another triumph in 1990. His Bayern Munich side won the European Cup three times back-to-back in the 1970s and he became the first German ever to play 100 times for his country. Furthermore, he also went on to be president of the organising committee of the 2006 World Cup, a hugely successful tournament held in his homeland.

Beckenbauer’s career could not have been more star-studded. He became the epitome, at home and abroad, of German football. Yet now even he is on the verge of being brought down by corruption allegations. Beckenbauer, so we discovered this week, signed a deal with the now disgraced Jack Warner, a former FIFA top executive promising him that German football would deliver “various services”. There is no evidence that cash ever changed hands, but there is evidence that these “services” were to include support for the football federation that Warner led (CONCACAF), the possibility of Germany playing friendly games at times and in places that suited Warner’s interests and also of making sure that Warner received tickets to World Cup games. Plus, crushingly, all of this was being talked about just four days before Warner cast his vote to decide which country should host the 2006 World Cup. As it happens, Warner voted for South Africa, but that didn’t stop Germany winning the nomination by 12 votes to 11.  If that sounds like a paradox, on Tuesday Oliver Fritsch reminded readers of Die Zeit that it could well be explained in quite straightforward fashion; the South Africans simply promised greater rewards than the Germans did.

There is no evidence that the agreement was actually carried out. Indeed Beckenbauer, as was noted in the deal, didn’t actually have the authority to promise all of the things noted in the contract. But that attempts were made to even think about a deal like this needs, at the very least, the Kaiser to come forward and explain what exactly was going on. As things stand, Beckenbauer has done no such thing. Throw in the fact that an unexplained Euro6.7m slush fund has been discovered and things get even worse. The president of the German Football Federation, Wolfgang Niersbach, has gone on record admitting that it looks like the fund existed to help Germany win the right to host the 2006 tournament. Niersbach, despite claiming to have had no knowledge of the fund until now, has already resigned. Beckenbauer, the man who was right at the coal face as the bid was won, clearly has a significant amount of explaining to do.

In many ways, the words of Alfred Draxler, the former editor of Europe’s biggest newspaper, Bild, and current editor of SportBild, say it all; “I simply could never imagine it. I always believed that we were awarded the 2006 World Cup on the basis of a fair competition. But today I’ve got to report that a contract has been found that looks very much like an attempt to indulge in bribery”. It does indeed appear that even the Kaiser might well be corruptible.

These events won’t see sport vanish from our TV screens. Or indeed suffer much of a reduction in popularity. They certainly won’t see football relegated to the far flung corners of newspapers’ sports sections. But they certainly do make one realise that corruption gets everywhere and that even apparent paragons of virtue can find it either very hard to resist or very hard to face up to. Franz Beckenbauer may come forward and find an elaborate explanation for his actions. I think, given the evidence thus far, he’s got a tough job ahead of him. Which, in so many ways, is one almighty great shame.

Dan Hough

You know it’s bad when you’re making FIFA look good

The corruption virus spreads to athletics as the IAAF finds itself facing a monumental task to clean up the sport.

Athletics is in many ways the purest of all sports. Questions about who can run the fastest, jump the highest (or the longest) or throw the farthest are some of the most fundamental asked in any sport. Indeed, fiercely contested though all sports certainly are, it is hard to argue that any catches the attention at the Olympic Games – the biggest of all sporting jamborees – quite like track and field does. Ask Brits, for example, about what their most vivid memories of the 2012 London Olympics are, and it is likely that the events of ‘Super Saturday’ (when British athletes won three gold medals on the track in little more than an hour) will quickly come to the fore.

The events that unfolded on Monday 9th November are as far removed from the spirit of Super Saturday as can be imagined. Indeed it is not too dramatic to say that they have rocked athletics to its core – and it is going to take a long-time before it fully recovers. Furthermore, it is quite likely that things are going to get worse, quite plausibly much worse, before they begin to get better. The background to this is that Dick Pound, the former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has published a report investigating allegations by a German TV programme and a Russian whistleblower called Vitaly Stepanov (a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Association, Rusada) that Russian athletes have systematically been taking performance enhancing drugs and, even more damningly, that the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) has been just as systematically helping them to cover their tracks. There was, so the report claimed, a “deeply rooted culture of cheating in Russian athletics” and this had led to a “sabotaging” of the 2012 Olympics.

The report’s findings had been well trailed; everyone knew that ARAF was going to have some explaining to do, but no one quire expected the report to come up with recommendations as high octane as they were. Amongst other things Pound’s report has recommended that Russian athletes be suspended from international competition, something that if the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) follows through on could quite possibly mean that Russian athletes wouldn’t be eligible to compete both in the next World Athletics Championships in London in 2017 and also the next Olympic Games (in 2016 in Rio). Furthermore, the report promised further revelations as and when criminal investigations in to alleged money-laundering and corruption by former president Lamine Diack in France are completed; this story will clearly not be going away any time soon.

The IAAF, the sport’s governing body, also has plenty of explaining to do itself. It has been accused of accepting “cheating at all levels” and that this cheating “is widespread and long-standing”. Indeed, the IAAF had been “inexplicably laissez-faire” in its approach to dealing with what the WADA report regarded as obvious and unmissable warning signals that cheating was taking place.

Whilst the the report’s main ire was directed at the behaviour of ARAF and associated bodies, WADA pulled no punches in highlighting how the corruption went over and beyond one rogue federation, noting that “corruption and bribery practices” were to be found “at the highest levels of international athletics”. It’s got so bad then the IAAF is in danger of making the scandals that have recently engulfed its footballing equivalent (FIFA) look like they might not actually have been *that* bad. Yes, the allegations really are that serious.

How did athletics get itself in to this state? It is not as if doping allegations are anything new and it is not as if athletics has not had ample opportunity to up its game.   Athletes from a variety of eastern bloc nations have revealed that they systematically took drugs through the 1980s, whilst the biggest doping case of them all involving 100m sprinter Ben Johnson in 1988 sent shockwaves through not just athletics but the whole of world sport. The signs were there, the evidence was in front of the guardians of the sport’s very eyes. Yet the IAAF never quite saw fit to react to them.

From an anti-corruption perspective, the signals could hardly have been clearer. Allowing self-assessment of compliance procedures is asking for trouble and the IAAF’s carefree attitude to due process where allegations of doping were made left many fearing the worst. Outspoken critics such as the UK’s Paula Radcliffe, Marathon world record holder multiple medallist on the track, knew something was deeply wrong, but without the support of the IAAF she knew that her public accusations of cheating would fall on deaf ears. At long last her concerns are being shown for what they really are; the reality of a sport that for far too long wanted to wish away its problems.

Where does the IAAF, under the still new leadership of Sebastian Coe, go from here? The initial responses of Lord Coe have indicated that he is at least well aware of the gravity of the problem. That is one key step in the right direction. There is no point trying to deflect the blame or somehow find a way of arguing that it isn’t as bad as it looks – it looks terrible and if the IAAF doesn’t come clean and go on record as realising that, then reform will be impossible. Lord Coe will also be well aware that if Russia and its athletes go down, then they are very likely to take others with them. As of yet, we don’t know who else is implicated in this, but if others have transgressed like the Russians are alleged to have done, then it is highly unlikely that the Russians won’t try to take them with them as they go. The storm is a long, long way from blowing itself out.

Secondly, successfully anti-corruption drives always have a strong leadership dimension to them. The IAAF is now led by a man with a reputation not just of integrity, but also of getting things done. Coe’s work around the 2012 Olympics will stand him in good stead, and he will need every ounce of the good will that he brings with him to push reforms through. However, without ‘buy in’ from prominent stakeholders within the IAAF and the attendant organisations under its jurisdiction, all attempts at reform will fail. Anti-corruption talk is cheap, but actually changing prevailing cultures is very difficult indeed. If anyone can do this, then someone like Seb Coe can.

Finally, the IAAF has to create institutional structures that have transparent processes at their core, where clear lines of accountability exist and where the monitoring and oversight procedures are rigorous. The doping testing centres in particular need to be beyond reproach, and Lord Coe will know that this will entail the type of root and branch reform that national federations are, in the cold light of day, likely to resist.

In many cases genuine reform only takes place when evasion, delusion and plain old incompetence have all run their races. That is exactly where the IAAF is now. Whether Lord Coe and those around him will be able to rise to the challenge remains to be seen. But, Coe used to win titles by patiently following lead runners around the running track and then coolly sprinting past them in the home straight. His running style was thoughtful, elegant and ultimately effective. His record as an administrator is equally as good. Let’s hope he manages to carry this on and meet one more challenge. The very fate of his sport might well depend on it.

Dan Hough